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?The first four years were fine'

By Ed Brock

Long ago C.J. Joshua married a man in Detroit, Mich.

"For the first four years everything was fine," Joshua said.

Then one day she came home and her husband put a gun to her head.

Thus began a year of abuse that was "consistent, every day." He beat her, emotionally abused her and threatened to kill her two daughters.

It is to women like Joshua, who now works as community and administrative liaison for Securus House and the Association on Battered Women in Clayton County Inc., that this month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, is dedicated.

On Oct. 23, the Department of Human Resources will hold a forum at the Clayton Center at 853 Battlecreek Road in Jonesboro.

Condace Pressley of WSB Radio is scheduled to moderate the event that will feature representatives from law enforcement discussing definitions of domestic violence, procedures in handling a 911 phone call to report a domestic incident and working with children who have witnessed domestic violence.

"That's going to be more for the education of the community," said Securus House Executive Director Carolyn James.

Two days after the DHR forum Securus House will hold its first Domestic Violence Forum Brunch in the jury assembly room in the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Jonesboro to raise money for the shelter. Recently Securus House lost about $8,000 each in funding from the DHR, the United Way and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council as a result of the sluggish economy after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"It's really hit us hard to the point where we had to cut a position," James said. "Any funds we raise will go to operating (the shelter)."

Securus House is an 18-bed halfway house for women and children who are fleeing abusive families. There were 5,727 calls made to the shelter's 24-hour crisis line between June 2002 and June 2003. Women or children made 75 percent of those calls.

Clayton County 911 operators recorded over 10,000 domestic and family violence calls and in the last nine months the shelter has helped to obtain 657 temporary restraining orders and 92 warrants and provided shelter to 525 families.

Throughout its history Securus House has helped 2,546 victims from Clayton County and 2,615 victims from other surrounding counties.

In the mid-1980s Catherine Haley, Patricia Altemus, Francis Glover and retired Clayton County Probate Judge Eugene Lawson established the shelter.

"They were the visionaries. They sat down and wrote the first grant," said Securus House board member Lois Hunter.

Other people, such as state Rep. Gail Buckner, D-Jonesboro, have also supported the shelter.

On Friday, representatives from Verizon Wireless gave James a $500 donation during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Verizon's new store on Mt. Zion Road in Morrow. James said Securus House has also received donations from Verizon's HopeLine program that contributes old cell phones to domestic violence victims and shelters.

Verizon has donated over $80,000 to date this year for domestic violence causes, said Verizon spokeswoman Heather Graham. People wanting to donate a phone to the HopeLine project can do so at the Morrow store.

One program Hunter hopes to revive if funding increases is an advocacy program to help victims of domestic violence through court proceedings.

"That's the best feeling in the world to have an advocate in there with you in court," Hunter said.

Joshua had already finished running when she called the crisis line about three and a half years ago.

"I just called and said I wanted to work. I didn't know it was for domestic violence," Joshua said. "I feel like this is where I should be to help the people who are in this situation now."

Even after Joshua ran away the abuse continued. Her husband blew up her house one night while she was staying with her mother.

"I was supposed to be home," Joshua said. "The bomb was under my bed."

She ran all the way to California, but two weeks after getting there she got a note saying "I know where you are and I'm coming to get you." But now, more than 15 years later, she never hears from her ex-husband.

"I've remarried and life is wonderful," Joshua said.

Tickets to the Oct. 25 brunch are $25 each and there are different levels of sponsorship. An Ivory Sponsorship is $50, Silver is $125, Gold is $250 and Southern Purple is $500.

The Clayton State Jazz Ensemble will provide music while various members of the community will cater the event.

Call Securus House at (770) 961-7233 for information or if you are a victim of domestic violence.